01/10/2010. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
pub: Bantam Press. 509 page paperback. Price: GBP 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-553-82027-0.
check out websites: www.orbitbooks.net and www.richellemead.com
Parents and those in charge of secondary school libraries have an unenviable job today in policing the reading matter of their impressionable charges and this is before they start surfing the internet. Forty years ago, young people were self-censoring as if they didn’t like the first page they put it back on the shelf. The biggest danger was girls reading Science Fiction and getting ideas outside an office career. Even crime novels only had dead bodies, there was no talk of splatter patterns or detailed anatomical dismembering. Vampires were sexy and dangerous, but a strategically placed cross would keep the reader innocent.
Okay, young people have always been fascinated by the forbidden and many a top shelf magazine has migrated to under the mattress of adolescents, usually boys. Books, though, tended to be sexually innocent. Juveniles would have found it difficult to get into adult bookshops, let alone buy and read the material. Now, they just have to walk into Waterstones.
Young adult fiction in the present climate treads a fine line. Everyone knows what teen-agers get up to in real life, though most parents would like to deny that their offspring were indulging in steamy sex. Regardless of reality, they do not really want their children reading about it. It might give them ideas. After all, look what happened when first workers, then women, were taught to read. But how can they tell what is ‘safe’. Stephanie Meyers ‘Twilight’ novels introduced many a youngster to the idea of supernatural fiction with cute vampires and werewolves. However, many of the novels now sold as supernatural romance contain detailed sex scenes within their pages. Books specifically aimed at young adults are tame compared with the work of writers such as Laurell K. Hamilton. The first three chapters of ‘Blood Noir’ would have caused the book to be sold under plain brown wrappers forty years ago.
Anyone with even a hint of a classical education might guess that Richelle Mead’s ‘Succubus Heat’ might contain some explicit material. It does, but not in a gratuitous way. The main character is Georgina Kincaid, a succubus living in Seattle, so this might be expected. It is her job to steal the souls of men by sleeping with them. This is the third book in this series. The first, ‘Succubus Blues’, introduced us to the set-up and the main characters. Georgina doesn’t like being a succubus very much, she would much rather choose who she sleeps with and her first choice would be Seth Mortensen. He is her favourite author and favourite man. Since any kind of intimacy with him would leech away part of his soul and shorten his life, theirs is a relationship that cannot work. They have tried hands-off, but both were getting frustrated so they have split up and Seth is now dating Maddie who works at the bookshop where Georgina is co-manager and where she met Seth. Georgina is dating Dante, a black magician who has very little soul left and so she cannot affect him.
Trying to cope with her personal angst, Georgina has managed to severely piss off Jerome, the archdemon in charge of her infernal activities. As a result, he loans her to Cedric, the archdemon of Vancouver, who is having a small problem with the pranks of a silly Satanist cult. However, their activities are a distraction as in the middle of one of their misdeeds, Jerome is summoned. This means that a human and a supernatural being have combined to imprison him and negate his powers. It also means that those he commands lose their supernatural abilities. Georgina is free to have a fling with Seth without endangering his soul and her vampire friends are able to go out in the sunshine without being crisped. With the threat of a new archdemon being appointed in Jerome’s position, she decides that finding Jerome and releasing him might be a better alternative.
As with the earlier books in this series, Mead is trying to balance the problems of a ‘human’ Georgina with her evil alter-ego. She is, though, much too moral to be truly evil and it is this quality that gives these novels their structure and allows her to be a sympathetic character. Pure evil would probably become tedious after a while. This is the kind of enjoyable romp that will while away a few hours and take the reader away from the tedium of real life, though it probably should have a parental guidance sticker on the cover.
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